This gator knows the sun is where it’s at.
Florida is a place known for many things, from theme parks and giant swamps to Café Cubano and pop music. But most of all, Florida is known for sun. Heck, they even nicknamed the place “The Sunshine State.” So why is it so hard for homeowners to go solar in Florida?
We’ve been asking Florida to do the right thing for an awful long time. Recently, Florida placed 24th in our 2015 ranking of solar policy in the United States. In a survey in which the top ten included six northeastern states, along with snowy Minnesota and rainy Oregon, Florida has no business being ranked so low.
It’s not that Florida is terrible for solar—with a 10 year payback time frame and a respectable Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 11.6%, people who go solar in Florida are able to reduce their electric bills and make a nice profit over 25 years, too. But the initial cost of going solar in Florida is still high enough that most people can’t take advantage of it.
Now, don’t get us wrong, there are rebates for solar panels in Florida, but they are given out in such a confusing and lottery-like process that it’s almost comical. Each January since 2010, the big electric utility companies take applications for rebates on a first-come, first-served basis. The application windows open at various dates and times, but once open, all possible rebates are spoken for in a matter of minutes, shoving some applicants onto a waiting list (in case any of the lucky few who were awarded rebates drop out), and leaving many people who want to go solar to either go it on their own or cancel their orders.
2015 will be the last time the rebates are offered. The utility companies have successfully convinced the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to cancel the solar rebate program, complaining that it’s not cost effective for them, but at the same time, Florida Power & Light (FPL) the state’s largest utility, is building a new $1.2 Billion power plant.
So what, right? That’s the free market for you, and FPL is an investor-owned company just doing what they need to to survive in the marketplace in bring in returns for investors? Wrong.
At the same time FPL is building new power plants to run on natural gas, they’re making their customers pay $191 Million so they can drill for the gas they’ll use as fuel. They also tried to ask the PSC, a government agency, to fund their lobbying efforts to keep proposed clean water rules from becoming law. Thank goodness that request failed.
What we see in Florida is what we see all over the country: a dirty old company burning dirty old fuels, in bed with government agencies and fighting tooth and nail against any subsidies for regular people who want to start producing their own electricity from the cleanest, most permanent source of energy there is.